Economists are predicting the number of women on the national payroll will surpass the number of men in 2009 because 82 percent of recession-related job losses have impacted men.
This news has sparked many discussions about how gender roles may or may not be affected in traditional American families.
Will Dad now run the household while Mom earns the income? Will Mom still do 17 hours of housework per week?
While who washes the dishes may be of great concern within the four walls of any couple’s kitchen, there is an issue of much greater importance that hasn’t been talked about.
Women still earn, on average, just 78 cents for every dollar a man earns. Plus, the number of women in the top-paying jobs is trending downward based on a comparison of how many women held executive positions in 2008 versus 2007.
This means while American families sort out who will take out the trash and who will scrub the toilet, they also need to figure out how they will live on less income. Mom and Dad may be able to swap chores, but they still can’t swap earning potential.
Those who think pay inequity is caused by women who opt out of full time, fast-track careers may continue to think this is a women’s issue brought about by choice, therefore affecting only women.
But a shift on the national payroll will affect all Americans: women, children and men. It is important that we take note of this, especially in light of the current economic climate.
Women consistently are paid less than men for the same work, and when it becomes those women that are the financial heads of households, it is entire families that suffer. The same is true when women are boxed out of the top-earning jobs.
As the wife and sole breadwinner in my family, I know for a fact that health care costs, grocery bills and mortgage payments don’t discriminate based on gender. The cost of raising a family isn’t cut by 22 percent, even when a salary is.
It doesn’t take an economist to understand that when American families are struggling, consumer spending goes down. And consumer spending accounts for approximately 70 percent of total economic activity. Even the best laid stimulus plan is at risk unless we right the gender inequities in the workplace.
Closing the wage gap and promoting women in the workplace has to be part of the package if we are going to revive our economy.
Businesses and government need to implement mentoring and succession planning for women, offer and secure equal pay for equal work, and implement family-friendly work/life programs.
If they don’t, how can we expect Dad to pay for the groceries when he does the shopping each week?
Liz O’Donnell is a public relations consultant and regular contributor to TheGlassHammer.com. This commentary was distributed by the American Forum, a nonprofit, nonpartisan, educational organization that provides views of state experts on major public concerns to stimulate informed discussion.